ASHLAND — It was on March 6, 2017 when massive wildfires hit areas of southwest Kansas, including areas in Dodge City, Ford County, Clark County and Ashland.
In that time, those who were in Ashland on that day have compiled stories, memories and the history of what when on that day in a new book titled, Starbuck Fire, an Oral History.
"The idea for the book began soon after the March 6, 2017 fire," Ashland Library director Cara Vanderree said. "I do transcription for the Kinsley Library as they do oral histories of events in Edwards County, so the idea of doing an oral history came naturally.
"I've been transcribing stories of WWII vets, Vietnam vets, flood survivors and farmers marching on Washington for several years, but to get people's stories right after the event instead of waiting 50 years seemed preferable."
The Kansas Humanities Council issued a grant to Vanderree for $3,400 along with the assistance of historian Dr. Jim Hoy, who helped write questions to the interviews that would follow.
"Diana Redger encouraged me to apply for the grants and a grant writer, Martha Bryant, who is on the board of Young Brothers Cattle Company, moved to the Ashland community and became a friend of the library," Vanderree said. "She wrote a grant to the Kansas Health Foundation that helped get the book published and provided a speaker, John Erickson of 'Hank the Cowdog' fame, for an event commemorating the first year anniversary of the fire.
"That grant also bought children's books for the library."
More than 71 interviews took place with 90 people total, some of the interviews consisted of spouses, children and family members done all at one time.
"Diana Redger (a master’s level historian) did all the interviews but one," Vanderree said. "These interviews were recorded on audio and those recordings and the resulting transcriptions are available on the Ashland Library website (ashlandlibrary.info); just click on the picture of a burning book."
Initially, according to Vanderree, the project looked at obtaining at least 250 pages of interviews. As the interviews took place however, the sharing of the experiences of what took place far exceeded the original concept.
"The project kind of outgrew my abilities," Vanderree said. "I did most of the transcriptions, with the help from my daughter Tessa Vanderree and M-S Office Services out of Wichita.
"We ended up with around 900 pages of transcription. The publisher discouraged that, and Martha Bryant helped edit the project down by 300 pages.
"The result is a better, more focused read."
For the efforts of putting together the fire book, Ashland Library was awarded the "Best Small Library in Kansas" award at the Kansas Library Association conference in October 2018 from the KLA and Auto-Graphics (a company that provides on-line catalogs for libraries), according to Vanderree.
"The book’s foreword says, 'Each story reflects the strength of the people who survived the fire. Those who were interviewed generously shared their experiences, their fears, and their hope for the future.
Many of the stories reflect the community's gratitude for the generosity of strangers who have helped in untold ways, and all touch on the importance of family, faith, and friendship in Clark County, Kansas.
'The book was written to preserve the memories of those who lived through the Starbuck Fire and to present them in context of the months following the fire,'" said Vanderree.
To purchase a copy of the book visit the Ashland Library website at ashlandlibrary.info and click on the shop now option.
The library accepts PayPal or you can send a check to the Ashland Library, P.O. 397, Ashland, Kansas, 67831 for $49.95.
Please add $10 for shipping and handling and give an address for shipping.
The Ashland Library phone number is 620-635-2589 for further questions.
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